Friday, October 06, 2006

Mini-Interview: Bedroom Walls

When I first saw Bedroom Walls’ live act at El Cid last July, it was such a pleasant surprise that I soon wrote that it was “some of the most instantly endearing music I’ve come across.”

The way the five-piece band went through lush, swooney song after song -- frequently switching instruments from organ to glockspiel to triangle -- positively knocked me on my ass … you know, figuratively speaking.

(Just listen to their latest album, All Good Dreamers Pass This Way, and you'll hear why.)

I spoke with Bedroom Walls frontman Adam Goldman recently to learn more about the band and quickly found out that besides being a talented singer and guitarist he’s also, like, funny or something...

Though I guess should have been little surprise from a guy who once told The LA Times, tongue planted firmlyin cheek, that his band’s mission was: “We just want to make people sad.”

Hi, Adam. How’s it going?

Eh, alright I guess. I just found out that an old friend from summer camp is one of those batshit Libertarians who is obsessed with ending income tax and hates the UN. I'll always remember him as the guy I first got high and listened to The Wall with.

How did the Bedroom Walls first start out? You guys have known each other for years, right?

I opened a show for Radio Vago at The Smell a long time ago. It was my first time playing out in L.A., and I'm pretty sure it was a fiasco, especially since everyone was there to get a sonic beatdown from Radio Vago and had to sit through my tender little acoustic songs first.

I didn't feel the need to do it again any time soon, but my roommate, Julian Gross, got it in his head that we should start a band. He was very persistent. And very smelly.

He ran into our pal Melissa Thorne in the Von's parking lot in Los Feliz and sweet-talked her into coming over to our apartment and playing some of my songs. Julian left to join Liars. And over the years we've collected Vanessa, Donna, and Jeff through friends and friends-of-friends.

You guys call the music you make “romanticore?” Did you come up with that term? What is it, exactly?

Romanticore is like emo for people who aren't retarded. Just kidding. You can be retarded and still like us.

But seriously...when we started out, there weren't too many bands in L.A. playing quiet, pretty songs. This might seem hard to believe now that you can't swing a dead cat in Echo Park without hitting 10 bands who wear their sensitivity on their sleeves, but it's true.

Way back in '01 or so, the "east side" scene was overrun by cute, dumb boys with shaggy hair and riffs that were at least two decades old. I guess Romanticore was our tongue-slightly-in-cheek way of addressing what we thought of as outsider status.

What really set it off was a "What is Romanticore?" mission statement I posted at our website. I listed things like "Eating stale cake for breakfast (and lunch)" and "knowing your ex-girlfriend is happier now." Heartfelt, corny, and (at least to me) pretty hilarious. Promoting the idea of melancholy as a decadent lifestyle choice just seemed funny to me, but not everyone sees the comedy element.

Anyway, the reactions we've gotten tend to fall into three categories: 1) People who take it seriously and love it (bloggers, reviewers, sad teens and sadder post-teens); 2) People who take it seriously and hate it (bloggers, reviewers, and all-around humorless types); and 3) People who see it as a mix of sincerity and sarcasm.

We like types 1 and 3 a lot.

Now that everybody's so effing sensitive, I guess the Romaticore thing makes less sense, and the humorous aspect of it gets lost.

Seriously -- every band on Myspace describes their music as "an autumn breeze at dusk" and "the smell of warm bread in Tuscany." Ugh! It's enough to make you miss the '90s.

What was your experience recording your new album? How is it different from the first?

The first album, I SAW YOU COMING BACK TO ME, was supposed to be completely instrumental. This was at a time when we played shows sitting down and didn't look at the audience.

It's totally embarrassing to think about it now, but we were one of those bands that regarded with some contempt the idea of providing the listener with too much "pleasure." The unspoken guiding principle seemed to be "Maybe we can dismantle the capitalist system if we refuse to sing catchy choruses!"

I believe this is what people call "art damage," and it is a terrible thing.

Anyway, right before going into the studio to make ISYCBTM, I played an early version of our song Do the Buildings and Cops Make You Smile? for Melissa and Julian at practice and they really wanted to put it on the album.

I think they were reacting to the fact that it was actually a real song. It had a melody and lyrics! I thought it was a dangerous move, but I relented and we recorded it.

I guess the point I'm kind of trying to make is that we had a lot of rules and restrictions on ourselves for the first album, which sounds like a bad thing, but I think it gives the record a special character.

For the new record, though, I just wanted to unleash a bunch of epic moments. I tried to make sure that each song had a big climax -- something that would sound great with headphones.

I wanted to make something stoned suburban teenagers could freak out to.

You guys made a few videos for the new album, including one that's “all sexy.” How did those come together?

Like the recording of the album itself, we just exploited the free labor of some of our genius friends.

The funny thing about the smutty video for Somewhere in Newhall is that it was made by a lovely young lass named Jessica Hundley.

Meanwhile, Eon McKai -- an actual director of hardcore porn -- ended up making a very innocent and sweet video for Mandy.

LOL, as the kids say...

You seem to have a love/hate/love/hate relationship with LA. Which is parts do you love and which do you hate? About its music scene or otherwise.

First off, let me say that even though I've probably had enough of L.A. for the time being, I've actually had a great time living here. And even when I do hate it, it's not for the cliche San Francisco/NYC bullshit reasons like "L.A. has no culture/no history/no soul/no blah blah." That's all nonsense.

I guess I'm just a little worn out on the youth obsession and the traffic. These things are everywhere, but maybe (hopefully) not as X-treme as they are here.

Anyway, as far as the band goes, I'm wishy-washy. L.A.'s been our home and we love it. I think it's been a bit tough at times, though, because things fall in and out of fashion so quickly.

We were a flavor of the month for a while, but that passes. We're kind of a "national act" these days, so it I guess it doesn't really matter that much, but it still bothers me that we're maybe slightly taken for granted in our hometown. I'm just a big baby.

You’ve said that you don’t really listen to a lot of modern music. What older music influences you?

Ah -- this is the "influences" question! I have a pat answer for these now:

Prince-meets-Billy-Joel-meets-Steve-Reich! (Plus Rickie Lee Jones, Led Zeppelin and late-period Talk Talk)

At one of the Bedroom Walls shows I saw, you called out to the audience for classic rock requests into the audience and then played them solo. How often do you do that?

I spent a lot of time in my room in the Long Island suburbs getting high and learning classic rock songs. I also did homework (once a nerd, always a nerd), but I can't remember anything about trigonometry.

I do however remember how to play "Lonely is the Night" by Billy Squire. So, if someone in the band is having a technical difficulty, sometimes I'll call out for classic rock requests to keep busy.

How many instruments do you guys bust out over the course of a night?

Um, I was promised there would be no math questions on this thing.

Last question: What’s next for you?

Next we are going to make an album that will solve the problems of world hunger, racism, global warming, worker exploitation and religious persecution.

It's going to sound like Janet Jackson getting it on with Jacques Brel, and it's going to kick your ass.

MP3: In Anticipation Of Your Suicide


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